Ted Williams was born on August 30, 1918, in San Diego, California, as Teddy Samuel Williams, named after his father, Samuel Stuart Williams, and former President, Teddy Roosevelt. Later on in life Ted changed his name on his birth certificate to Theodore. At the age of eight, he was taught how to throw a baseball by his uncle, Saul Venzor. Saul was one of his mother's four brothers, as well as a former semi-professional baseball player who had pitched against Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe Gordon in an exhibition game. As a child, Williams' heroes were Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals and Bill Terry of the New York Giants. Williams graduated from Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego, where he played baseball as a pitcher and was the star of the team. Though he had offers from the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees while he was still in high school, his mother thought he was too young to leave home, so he signed up with the local minor league club, the San Diego Padres.
Over the next few summers, Williams played for the Padres. After a stellar 1937 season, the Boston Red Sox signed him to a two-year deal. Optioned to the club's minor league team in Minneapolis, Williams tore the cover off the ball in 1938, taking home the league's Triple Crown by leading all hitters in hitting (.366), home runs (43) and RBIs (142).
Throughout his career, Williams stated his goal was to have people point to him and remark, "There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived."
In 1939, Ted Williams made his debut as a member of the Red Sox. His hitting prowess didn't let up, and the 20-year-old outfielder—who was affectionately dubbed "The Kid"—led the American League in RBIs with 145 and finished fourth in MVP voting. Over the next two decades—except for time that he served in the military as a Navy pilot in World War II and a Marine pilot in the Korean War—Williams was as good a hitter as the game had ever seen. The left-fielder won six batting titles, was the league's home run and RBI champ four times and twice captured the Triple Crown. In 1941, he finished the season with a .406 average. He is the last Major League player ever to top the .400 mark.
Even as other parts of his game began to erode with age, Williams could still swing an effective bat. In 1957, at the age of 39, he hit .388 to become the oldest player in history to lead the league in batting average.
Ornery and difficult to deal with, Williams never had a cozy relationship with the press or Boston fans, who shunned the athlete when he didn't give a strong performance. In turn, Williams never tipped his hat to the crowd until he gave a speech to Red Sox fans in 1991.
Still, it proved to be a tearful goodbye when Williams hung up his cleats for good in September 1960. As usual, however, Williams went out in style, belting a home run into Fenway Park's bleacher seats in his final at bat. Overall, Williams finished with a career average of .344—the sixth highest since 1990—and 521 home runs.
In 1966, Williams was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
We've All Lost a Hero
The world has lost one of its great citizens. America has lost a hero. The memories of Ted Williams will live on for years and years to come. The country was deeply affected on July 5, 2002 as word spread that Ted Williams had died. Spontaneously, many people flocked to the Ted Williams Museum. Countless others flooded us with phone calls, card and letters, all expressing their loss and many recognizing that we at the Museum shared that sadness. Ted's life, however, was one to celebrate - and the mission of the Ted Williams Museum and its many programs will be to continue to inspire people with the example Ted set and to encourage them to support the causes in which Ted believed.
On July 22, 2002, a celebration of an American hero was held at Fenway Park and, as the New York Times described it, the occasion offered "his extended family, old teammates and Red Sox fans from all over New England" the opportunity not so much to grieve Ted's passing but to celebrate with stories, reminiscences and appreciations - some of what Ted Williams has meant to so many people over several generations. The event was very well presented and truly left those in attendance feeling uplifted by this man who had touched them. It remains the responsibility of the Ted Williams Museum to carry forward and give voice to the goals to which Ted Williams dedicated his life.
Words of Appreciation for Ted
Many people have written words in appreciation of Ted Williams. One of the most succinct, yet moving tributes, came in one sentence by Red Sox fan Paul Penta. He wrote: "His passing feels like one of the faces on Mount Rushmore has disappeared."
"Simply the Best." - George Bush
"When I was a young high school student, a true Red Sox fan back then, I worshipped the ground Ted walked on. So did every other baseball fan. Ted Williams was simply the best hitter in baseball. He knew it, and his confidence at the plate was contagious. Later on, Ted became one of the best fly-casting fishermen in the world. As in baseball, excellence was the key word there."
"Ted served his country in two wars. As a Marine pilot, he set a tremendous example for other celebrities in America. He believed in service to country, and indeed he served with honor. While many celebrities found ways to avoid real service, Ted was right there, out front, flying fighter planes. Ted had been fighting illness for a long time. Now he is at peace. His friends will mourn. All baseball fans will say, 'Ted, we honor you as the best hitter baseball has ever produced.' That was his goal, and he reached it."
"Of course, there still are heroes. Ted Williams was a true hero - in baseball and in life."